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A document summarising the resolutions of the Indian National Congress in 1885
(By permission of The British Library, OIOC SW63)
  • This document shows the decisions made by the Indian National Congress at its first meeting in 1885. The Congress was a group of Indians who wanted changes to the way India was ruled. They wanted a Royal Commission. This was an official enquiry run by the government that looked into important issues and made suggestions as to how things might be changed.
  • The members of the Congress were not revolutionaries. They were not looking to end British rule in India. They were mostly well-educated middle class Indians who wanted more say in how the country was run. They disliked the role of the Council of India (see source 4), which had a lot of influence on the running of India, but had no Indian members.
  • They wanted reform of the Legislative and Local Councils. These organisations were controlled by the British and ruled the separate districts of India.
  • They also wanted better job opportunities for people like themselves. Well-educated Indians could often get good jobs in the civil service. However, they found it very difficult to rise through the ranks and get more senior jobs.
  • One of the interesting things about the Congress is that the delegates all spoke English as a common langauge. This was because they spoke many different Indian languages, but they all spoke English as well.
  • The Congress also used English language newspapers and the new technology of the telegraph to spread their ideas and set up meetings. In a strange way, the English language brought greater unity among Indians.
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